Bharti launches 3G in one state

Dylan Bushell-Embling
25 Jan 2011
Daily News

India's largest telecom operator, Bharti Airtel, yesterday launched 3G services in one circle.

Announcing the commencement of services in the state of Karnataka, the company said it plans to have 3G operational in the remaining 12 circles it has licenses for by March.

India is divided into 22 telecom circles. Bharti paid 122.95 billion rupees ($2.7 billion) for spectrum licenses in 13 of these – including Delhi and Mumbai – during last year's 3G auction.

Bharti said it decided to roll out in Karnataka first because it is the operator's most lucrative region by revenue market share.

It is offering by-the-hour data billing for light users and capped usage and billing plans for more heavy data consumers.

Bharti ended 2010 with nearly 150 million customers, from an addressable market of around 745 million Indian mobile users.

Bharti is the third private operator to launch 3G in India, following from Tata DoCoMo in November, and Reliance Communications in December.

Rival Aircel also plans to roll out this quarter. State-owned BSNL and MTNL have been offering limited 3G services since 2009 and late 2008 respectively, having received spectrum ahead of the auction on the proviso that they match the highest bids in their respective circles.

Commenting on the launch Bharti Airtel CEO Sanjay Kapoor said that while India was coming later to the 3G party than most of the world, “no doubt we will catch up at a much faster speed.”

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